Sunday, August 21, 2016

Something New...

Flowers and leaves of Bitter Melon, Momordica charantia.
A few weeks ago someone asked me "What's new in the garden? I know you've always got something new going on."

I heard disappointment in her voice when I lamely responded, "Oh, it's all pretty much the same old thing. I'm planting cauliflower again."

LAME.

So then a few days later, maybe even the next day while in the garden I looked around and thought, "Why yes, I do have new things in the garden."

She was right. I've always got something new going on... or almost always.

Bitter melon fruit.
The first thing that jumped out at me in the was something I didn't plant so much for its culinary aspects as its health benefits; bitter melon (Momordica charantia), also known as bitter gourd, balsam pear, balsam apple and probably many other names. It is native to Asia, southern China and eastern India, and is a key part of Asian and Indian cuisine.

Bitter melon is, well, bitter, very much so. But when small amounts are added to highly seasoned foods they add a nicely bitter touch. I've said before (and will probably say on many other occasions) that we Americans should learn to cultivate a taste for bitter foods. Bitter flavors improve our digestion and all of us "angry Americans" could certainly benefit from better digestion. Plus, bitter melon possesses the ability to assist in controlling blood sugar. It can be useful in diabetic or pre-diabetic conditions. Please consult a professional with herbal knowledge before using it for these conditions. However, adding some bitter melon to your meals can't hurt.

Bitter melon apparently loved the craziness of our hot and not-so-wet weather. Online sources claim it requires regular fertilizing and moderate watering, but this plant has received nothing but the initial application of manure, and rainwater. And it's doing just dandy. A member of the cucumber/squash/melon/gourd family (Cucurbitaceae) bitter melon supposedly succumbs to all the ailments of members of that family. However, it does not appear to be bothered at all by the critters and diseases taking aim at my other cucurbits. (RIP watermelons)

It's actually a very pretty vine and could quite easily grow on a trellis in the ornamental garden. The other evening I noticed that the flowers, and perhaps foliage, also had a pleasant fragrance. So definitely look at it as having potential ornamental value.

Mouse melon, about grape size.
I had not clue what to expect from bitter melon, but am pleased. We finely chop small amounts and saute them slightly before adding to dishes. It works particularly well with curries, both Indian and Asian. Or slice and roast the melons before adding. I found one Indian recipe that I found interesting, a fried bitter melon ("karela" in Hindi) and coconut dish that is used as a condiment. I love coconut, but don't really "fry" anything, especially not deep frying (that's another topic on healthful cooking), so I adapted the recipe, also eliminating the sugar. Somewhat disappointing. Maybe I'll try again now that I've acquired a taste for it.

The Mexican sour gherkin is next on the "what's new" list. The sour gherkin, or "cucuamelon," AKA "mouse melon" (Melothria scabra) also belongs to the family of cucurbits. Its delicate vines and leaves are quite charming climbing up the empty end of the bean trellis. The tiny (oh so tiny) fruits are adorable, but are taking quite a long time to achieve any size, even though their mature size is that of a large grape. They did originate in Mexico and Central America and can be eaten fresh, pickled or cooked. Versatile, cute, and possessing a cucumbery taste. Not sure I will harvest enough to be worth pickling.

This louffa gourd flower is much bigger than those of the bitter melon and
mouse melon. And the little bee visiting this flower will ensure that another 
grows on the vine. 
The other night I picked one small, immature louffa gourd (Luffa aegyptiaca), yet another cucurbit. I found the seed at a local seed fair this spring and thought, "Why not?" (I get into real trouble with those two words, horticulturally, that is.) It is doing much better than my ordinary cucurbits, loving the heat. I've learned that I probably planted the seeds far too late to get mature gourds from which I can make sturdy scrubbing sponges. That's just fine. It's a pretty enough vine and the immature gourds are edible -- sort of like summer squash. It's always nice to get some kind of veggie that's not a brassica (cabbage/mustard family) or solonaceae (tomatoes, peppers, etc.). The one little louffa fruit I picked, about 8 inches long, was tender and edible. (Sorry, no pictures. I ate it.)

Then there is the Lemon Squash. My neighbor gave me the seed of this summer squash, saying it holds up to squash bugs better than zucchini. So far it's still alive and has two lemon-colored fruits. I'll give them a couple more days to put on some size and pick them, adding them to the little crookneck I picked yesterday. Since these summer squashes, which I planted in late June, are close outside the back door, I've been dumping water on them regularly. At least every other day. That may be the key to keeping them going during squash bug attack. Maybe. We'll see.

I think I'll stop here now. I've got a couple of other sort of new things, but they aren't cucurbits and I don't want to spoil the theme.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Then This Happens...

The garden provides many forms of surprises, often not pleasant ones -- like this year's onslaught of cucumber beetles and squash bugs in my watermelons.

However, the pleasant ones do exist in multitudes. You just need to get past focusing on weeds and worms and whacky weather.
Demure Naked Lady buds readying to open into
their gloriously decadent blossoms.

Sometimes the surprises aren't really surprises, they are simply sudden pleasantness. Such as the above"Naked Ladies" making their stately entrance early this week. They aren't a surprise in the fact that I knew I'd planted them. However, like the spring blooming bulbs and many other perennial plants, I often forget exactly where and how many I've planted. Or perhaps I thought they died out and suddenly, there they are.

Always curious about plants, especially the common, ordinary ones, I decided to do a bit of research on the Naked Lady, so called because the flower stalks appear only after the foliage has withered and been forgotten. Most people will know them as "Surprise Lilies," which are part of a group of flowers containing several species. The fragrant pink ones we see around here are Lycoris squamigera, which might be a hybrid of two other species. I don't know. I don't care. They are lovely. And so are the other species, the red and yellow spider lilies, yellow surprise lily, long tube surprise lily, magic lily, peppermint lily, and tie dye lily (which looks much like these "common" ones, but with a rich blue at the petal tips. During my research I discovered a nursery that sells many species and cultivars of these beautiful surprises. Check out their photo gallery. I may have to start a little collection... hmmm?

Other surprises catch me off guard. This evening I went out after dinner to dump my wheelbarrow load of freshly pulled weeds and put away my tools. As I wheeled everything back to the house I caught sight of masses of bright white, magenta and yellow blooms glowing in the dusky light. The Four-O'clocks (Myrabilis) had blossomed. I knew these plants were there, but had not really seen them at dusk, or paid much attention at all. Standing about five feet from them I caught a whiff of perfume in the air. The four-o'clocks also scented the night. Incredible. No photos of this could do the sight (or smell) justice. So, no photos.

But I will leave you with another colorful photo. For weeks we've watched as the Stanley plums ripened on the tree, becoming a deeper and deeper purple. They are in plain view of our favorite dining spot, so we see them frequently. They are almost ripe. We'll split them open and dry them for sweet treats later on. Not a surprise, precisely, but welcomed. Life is good.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pay Attention

For the past few weeks the brilliant flowers of Royal Catchfly (Silene regia) have captured my attention whenever I sit on our screened in porch -- which is for practically every meal.

We watched the flower clusters slowly open, first a few bright red blossoms, then a few more, then it seemed as if they all exploded at once. I call them my floral fireworks. The blossoms are now fewer than in this photo (yes, I am slow at posting here), but lovely and eye-catching still. What's more, local hummingbirds also are drawn to the red flowers.

When I am out on the porch, my gaze frequently falls upon the floral fireworks display. Sometimes I outright stare. This is a temporary state of things, so I fill my now with as much of it as possible.

And the dragonflies... on some evenings, when the sunlight softens, squadrons of dragonflies provide an aerial show for supper-time entertainment. They speed in a straight line and suddenly change direction at 90 degrees. Or they appear to almost stop before zooming off, all the while hunting mosquitoes and other tiny flying things.

When dusk has turned the shadows in the woods black, I step out the back door or gaze out the window, watching for fireflies blinking love notes to each other.

This is summer as much as the heat and humidity... this beauty, this don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it magic. I must remember to take a moment to pay attention, to pause, quit sweating and working and notice Life. I have tried to take a few moments each evening to watch the fireflies, to scan the skies for dragonflies, to notice the easy grace of the buzzards soaring on hot winds. If I don't Life passes me by.

When I woke up this morning I dreaded getting out of bed. This was the first day of the "Excessive Heat Warning" that will hang around through Saturday. I lay in bed contemplating my list of tasks and wondered how it would be possible. I altered the plan slightly.

Even though the relative cool of the morning will be short-lived I do not rush through breakfast. I know how to sweat, how to take care of myself in the heat. I worked outside until noon today and even though my clothes were soaked with sweat, I didn't find the heat all that bad. Many of the tasks on my list were completed or at least started, and I brought in baskets of elderberries, cucumbers, long beans, ground cherry and so on. Not bad for a morning's work.

I spent the afternoon indoors cooking -- after I had a little post-lunch rest. No need to rush through that, either. It is late evening and I must decide whether to work on the pile of basil and/or the basket of elderberries, or whether to put them away and save the jobs for tomorrow...

It seems that the fireflies and Full Moon are calling me...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer

Last night I watched fireflies flashing in the velvet dusk against the deep shadows of the woods.
I stood outside my backdoor and watched the show for 10 minutes or more, drinking in the beauty and magic of those moments. The air was balmy, warm but not uncomfortably so; the perfect temperature according to my standards. Comfortable to be naked, but not uncomfortable with a few bits of clothing.

Perfect moments lit by fairy lights.

I recalled many summer nights running around the yard with my siblings, catching fireflies -- or lightning bugs, as we prefered to call them. We'd collect them in jars with holes punched in the lids. My goal was to capture enough of the flashing bugs to make a lantern bright enough to read by.
I never achieved that goal, but as I thought back on those nights decades ago I had an urge to grab a jar and start collecting lightning bugs.

But I'd already showered and dispensed with any chiggers and ticks I'd picked up during my day of pouring out sweat as I harvested and watered berries and vegetables. So I remained safely on the back porch, basking in the evening as it slid through dusk and into full nightfall.
At that moment it was difficult to believe that the temperature forecast for the next day (today) was 100 degrees.

These past two weeks have been unusually hot for June. We typically don't register 100 degrees until July. Not only has it been hot, but rainfall has been incredibly sparse, a situation that is difficult to take on the heels of a period of frequent and high rainfall.

So for the past two weeks I've focused on keeping the vegetable garden watered. This year I laid soaker hoses -- as many as I had -- on some of the beds, including the long bed of blueberries, and the strawberries. That made the task easier and less time-consuming. Yet I still have to move the hose from one soaker to another, and still have to fill buckets for some things.

The heat has felt like a burden. I wake in the morning wishing I could stay in bed and sleep. But when I'm outside in the heat, soaking my shirt and jeans with sweat, my head protected by a broad-brimmed hat, it doesn't feel so bad. I feel myself sweating, but do not feel oppressed by the heat.
Until the middle of the afternoon after I've been standing too long in the sun (especially if I forget the hat) and feel the thirst building. Then I feel the heat pounding. Barefoot gardening is abandoned, as even the chipped wood mulch gets too hot for bare skin.

Not today, though. Today I picked a few things and finished the watering by 11:30 a.m. I spent the afternoon putting away produce, cleaning up the kitchen, and I even took a nap. Tomorrow the heat will have diminished some (only 91) and they say we have fair chance of rain (40 percent) tomorrow night and a bit of a chance almost every day for the next seven days with the temperatures easing back into the 80s.

Ah, to feel the rain on my face again. As with all things, this heat will pass. I've just got to hang in there.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Lettuce Have Fun

The peas have set blooms. My mouth drools at the thought of tender, sweet snap peas ready to pick, and better yet crunching in my mouth.

Have you ever taken a close look at pea blossoms, delicate little fairy flowers? Pretty things, aren't they?

As I wait for the pea pods to appear, I'm picking lettuce. Tender lettuce to go into my salads, along with spinach (which is bolting and won't be around much longer), arugula and baby mustard greens. I pull crisp radishes to slice among the green things (they won't be around much longer, either) and wait for the carrots to get big enough to pull.In a few weeks I can shred a bit of cabbage into the salads, as well.

Even these pretty pea blossoms could go into the salad to add a hint of pea flavor. But nipping off the flowers means fewer pods, and we can't have that.

While all kinds of things in the garden can be part of a salad, I want to focus on lettuce here. Not many of you get excited about lettuce, I am certain. It's just a salad green. Not much flavor or anything, just bulk. Although not the powerhouse that kale, broccoli and some other green veggies are lettuce still contains nutritional value, offering up vitamin K, folates, and a few others. Forget the iceberg lettuce if you're looking for nutrients, other types possess much more.

Our cultivated lettuce is closely related to this wild prickly lettuce spreading
rampantly through my garden.
Humans have cultivated lettuce for a long, long time. The ancient Egyptians cultivated lettuce at least 6,000 years ago, according to paintings in ancient Egyptian ruins. They started cultivating a wild lettuce for its seed, from which they extracted oil -- probably for food use, medicine, and/or cosmetic purposes. The oil might also have been used in religious ceremonies, as it was sacred to Min, their god of reproduction. They thought lettuce enhanced male virility, symbolized by the plant's ability to suddenly bolt (produce flower/seed stalks) and due to its milky sap. It was a symbol of sexual prowess and a promoter of love and childbearing -- good for both male and female. So they ate tons of it, especially after developing lettuce with succulent leaves.

That leafy lettuce likely was the precursor to today's Romaine lettuce varieties. Lettuce traveled out from Egypt, landing on the plates of Persian kings, apparently, and infiltrating Greek gardens. Today a second common name for romaine lettuce is Cos, named after a Greek island. Incidentally, the Greeks thought lettuce made men impotent, opposite of the Egyptians' view. And Greeks served lettuce at funerals.

Lovely red-splashed Yugoslavian Lettuce.
From Greece lettuce traveled to the Roman empire (not a far piece) where it obtained the name "romaine" lettuce because is was grown in the papal gardens of Rome, and reclaimed its value as an herb that enhances sexual potency. Then it spread through Europe, where it alternated between a fertility enhancer and a fertility detracter. A 17th century aphrodisiac contained lettuce, purslane and mint steeped in vinegar, while in the 19th century, Britons thought it induced infertility and sterility.

Lettuce probably took a much more roundabout path than described above, because it apparently did not reach Greek cultivation for a few thousand years after the Egyptians started cultivating it, and hit Rome several hundred years later. But this is a simple look at its quite long history.

Lettuce still provides Egypt with the seed oil for which it was originally cultivated. I found a couple of Web sites touting its powers as a food oil, cosmetic and medicine. The milky sap of lettuce also possesses medicinal qualities, which likely are far more pronounced in the bitter wild lettuces that weep much greater quantities of the sap. Cultivated lettuce produces more sap once it bolts. The genus name of cultivated and wild lettuces, Lactuca, is Latin for "milk-forming," indicating the sap was its most prominent and/or useful characteristic. The main medicinal use for the sap, as well as the oil, is to promote sleep. That characteristic earned it the name "sleepwort."

I find it interesting that lettuce, which prefers growing in cooler conditions and requires a fair amount of water to stay sweet and tender, originated in a hot, dry region like Egypt. Of course, they most likely did not mind when heat made the lettuce bitter. Our aversion to bitter flavors is a truly recent development and more pronounced in the U.S. than elsewhere. However, bitter flavors improve our digestion, causing the liver to work more effectively. I don't mind when the lettuce gets a little bitter, as a bit of oil and vinegar subdues the bitterness, without reducing its digestive benefits.
Lettuce grows well in containers. All you need is something 6 to 8 inches deep.

Today you can find more than 1,000 named lettuce cultivars, which exhibit many leaf shapes and coloration. I love the red varieties most. The most common types available to the home garden are iceberg/crisphead, leaf/bunched, butterhead, romaine/cos, and Batavian/summer crisp/French crisp. I discovered the Batavian or summer crisp lettuce last year and fell in love with its beautiful, large heads. During recent reading I discovered that it tends to stand longer in summer heat without bolting, so it will be my main summer lettuce. The Batavian, romaine and butterhead lettuces are best set out as transplants (unless you like thinning out direct-sown seedlings) so that you can give them space, like about 12 inches between plants. This gives you beautiful large heads. A more unusual type is Celtuce, or asparagus lettuce, also called "woju" in Asia where it is a delicacy. This type is grown for its tasty stalks.

The varieties now in my garden are Red Salad Bowl and (green) Salad Bowl, which are leaf varieties; Buttercrunch and Yugoslavian (butterhead types, which produce loose heads); Jericho romaine (one of the heat-tolerant varieties); and Concept Batavian. In the past I've tried a crisphead variety, just for kicks, but it didn't want to grow for me at all. I'm not crying over it because I don't consider those varieties worth the trouble. Then, of course, wild prickly lettuce grows everywhere. While technically edible, I don't include it in my wild foods harvest.

Take a stroll through the seed catalog's lettuce selection. Perhaps you won't make lettuce a main part of your garden, but you'll certainly want to try all the different, beautiful varieties.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Try This Black Cap On




Above: These beautiful bronze irises were a gift from someone a number of years ago. They've survived my move nine years ago, but are now in danger of being swamped by a tall yellow iris and a mass of white prairie sage. I frequently forget that they are there and find myself a bit surprised when they bloom. The first blossoms always elicit an "Oh, yeah."

If I can manage to not get lost in all my other tasks, I hope to move some of these unique irises to a less populated spot (as well as dig out some of the prairie sage).

The old-fashioned purple iris also are in bloom and releasing the most heavenly scent. No other iris has such a delicious fragrance. I always look forward to their blooming, as inhaling their scent seems to me like breathing fresh air for the first time in a long time. Alas, their bloom season is short.

Below: And this is my black raspberry tangle.

You should see fence posts with wire strung between them and all of the second-year fruiting canes tied to the wire. Instead, you see a mad tangle, with the second-year canes flopping on the ground, many of them rooted at the end. So, good news, I'll have more black raspberry plants to put somewhere. Bad news, I can't just walk between the three rows. I should have put the fenceposts and wire in last spring, when I planted these monsters. But I didn't. Lots of excuses; but that doesn't change the scenes.

The more upright canes that you see are mostly this year's growth, which will give me berries next year. This tangle got planted in an area that we prepared for potential fruit trees and definitely some kind of berries. We layered wood chips and compost over the area at the edge of the woods. In some place the mulch/compost was at least three feet thick because of the slope toward the rock ledge where the hill drops off. Then we waited for three years as the mulch decomposed and developed a luscious fungal composition that is favored by woodland types.

Black raspberries, also known as "black caps," like well drained soil and full sun to part shade.One Web site noted that with "proper pruning black raspberries behave quite well in the small-scale, edible landscape." As you can see, without proper pruning and support they do not behave well at all, except for the fact that last year's growth now bears numerous blossoms that will turn into my most favorite berry. The little flowers are not as showy as those of blackberries, as their petals are quite small to almost non-existent. But the bees seem to love them, and I certainly love what follows the flowers.

Another Web site noted that black raspberries are not as hardy as red raspberries. Say what? I have found the opposite to be true. I must baby the reds along while the black raspberries go nuts. Black raspberries are hardy in zones 5-8 (I live in zone 6-ish), while the reds might be hardier to a cooler USDA zone, but dislike the heat of our summers. One species of black raspberry is native to Kansas -- and pretty much the entire U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains -- and grows wild in the woods around my home. Another species is native west of the Rockies. I have no idea which species is sold as cultivated varieties, perhaps both, perhaps a hybrid; another avenue for exploration.

The trouble with having wild black raspberries growing in my woods is that they can transmit various diseases to my cultivated ones, as can blackberries and red raspberries. The diseases don't do much to the blackberries and red raspberries, but will affect the black caps over time. So they must be separated -- by at least 100 feet according to one source, or by 300 feet according to another -- and preferably the black raspberries must be downwind from the others to prevent the wind from carrying insects and disease to them. So those wild canes I found growing nearby after planting all those black raspberries must be kept cut down.

In my last post I raved about strawberries, but if I must choose -- if I really must -- the black raspberry edges out the strawberry very slightly as my favorite berry of them all. And what a great berry to have as my favorite. Unless you read nothing about nutrition, you've all learned that blueberries and other berries are "super foods," possessing tons of antioxidants and other powerful nutrients. Black raspberries edge out all the other berries when it comes to antioxidants. The black caps have 10 percent more antioxidants than blueberries (everybody's darling) and 40 percent more than strawberries. This makes them excellent for prevention of cancer, heart disease and other issues.

The dark color of the berries (which aren't "true" berries, but that's another post) indicates the presence of lots of anthocyanins. Their anti-inflammatory action helps with the prevention of many ailments (such as cancer and heart disease). The berries also supposedly help improve vision, memory retention in the elderly, improve cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of high blood pressure, and so on. Other constituents boost all of those effects as well as reduce birth defect risk, improve liver issues and improve wound healing.

The roots and leaves also have been used medicinally. The roots provide a strong laxative effect and can be chewed to relieve coughs and toothaches, as well as treating diarrhea and dysentery. The leaves are highly astringent and can be made into a wash to clear up old and "foul" sores, ulcers and boils.

But I'd rather eat the berries as often as possible for their overall benefits. The berries are so perishable that you rarely find them for sale even in farmers markets. I have occasionally seen bags of frozen ones, and have seen a few items (such as ice cream) flavored with black raspberries. So if you want the wondrous flavor and health benefits of these berries, grow your own. It will be worth it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Fragrant Berry

The columbines are shedding their flowers, readying to form mature seeds and scatter them everywhere. And the poppies have begun blooming.

This morning their heads were bent from the weight of rain; but as soon as the rain stopped and a breeze sprang up, their petals became light and they lifted their heads.

I do love poppies and only wish they were suitable as cut flowers. However, they wilt as soon as you cut them, And their season of bloom does not last nearly long enough. This year my garden contains poppies from seed that dropped last summer (the ones now beginning their bloom), as well as much smaller poppy plants from seed I scattered in March. That should spread out the bloom time a bit... I hope.
It's also the season of strawberries. I do so love strawberries. And they are good for me, too. The strawberry is ranked among the top most nutritious and beneficial fruits, containing many vitamins and other nutrients, as are most deeply colored berries. The berries are full of antioxidants, anthocyanins, polyphenols, quercitin and other substances that serve as anti-inflammatory agents that help prevent heart disease, cancer and stroke.

Long considered an herb of the heart it symbolizes love, as in "I Love strawberries. And 9-year-olds across the country agree. Some study done somewhere concluded that more than 53 percent of 9-year-olds said the strawberry was their favorite fruit. Only 53 percent? Strawberry must have been second in line for the rest of them. The berry also benefits the physical heart, improving circulatory system function.

Although a sweet, sweet fruit, it can be used to control blood sugar. An acquaintance of mine once told me that she had done a test with several fruits, eating them, then testing her blood sugar. The strawberry was about the only one that did not cause a blood sugar spike. Use them with cinnamon for a double-whammy blood sugar control. They may be helpful in controlling allergies, but also are a common allergen, so beware.

Strawberries also assist with constipation and contain vasodilators that can reduce blood pressure -- the list goes on, especially when you add in the leaves. Strawberry leaf tea is astringent (useful in diarrhea), a diuretic (helps you eliminate excess water), and an infusion can be used as a gargle for sore throat and a wash for minor scrapes and burns. One source noted that the leaf can be used as a substitute for black tea.

The wild wood strawberry is the one most cited as medicinal, but all strawberry species and varieties possess similar properties, although the cultivated ones might not be as strong.

Various species of strawberries grow all over Europe, and are native to North and South America. Our cultivated variety is a hybrid between the common North American Fragaria virginiana and a species from Chile, Fragaria chiloensis. The species name for our cultivated strawberry, of which there are more than 600 varieties, is Fragaria x ananassa.
The strawberry is the subject of many bits of folklore and legend, including a Native American one that tells of a quarrel between a man and woman. The woman left and the man regretted his actions that caused her departure. So he appealed to a sky spirit who placed various wonderful berries in her path. She stopped only upon arriving at a field of strawberries. Eventually, she returned to the man.

If you don't have your own strawberry patch, buy organic strawberries whenever possible, as hundreds of chemicals -- from pesticides to fungicides are used on them. Changing cultivation practices, however, made it possible to grow commercial acreages of organic berries.

Pests and disease are a given in a strawberry patch, but I have never found them troublesome enough to warrant use of even organic-approved pesticides. The snails, slugs and strawberry seed bugs leave enough for me to feast on and store in the freezer. The June-bearing varieties do require "renovation" and feeding in late summer, once production has ceased (which I hope to cover at the appropriate season), but have otherwise been trouble-free for me -- after I put up barriers to keep deer and rabbits from eating the plants. Don't fertilize strawberries in the spring, as that can make the berries soft and spoil more quickly.

Strawberries come in June-bearing varieties (which produce here typically from mid or late May through June), and these come in early-, mid-, and late-season varieties. If you plant some of all three, you can extend your harvest beyond the usual three weeks. Ever-bearing and "day-neutral" varieties produce pretty much all summer, with a bit of a slow-down at some point. However, they do not produce as much overall as the June bearers. I grow an early variety, Early Glow, and one that produces a bit later, Sure Crop. Of the two, Early Glow is my favorite, as Sure Crop berries can be a little on the soft side.

What more can I say about these luscious fruits? Well they aren't "true" berries, but are "accessory fruits." The fleshy part does not form from the ovary walls (as in true fruits), but forms from a bit just behind the bloom. The little seeds, called achenes, that dot the surface of the fruit are the "true" fruits, little dry fruits that form from ovary walls. The seeds are so numerous because each flower contains many little pistils (female flower parts) in the center. The lowly, ground-hugging strawberry is a member of the Rose family, as is the tall and spreading apple, and many of the cane fruits (like raspberries and blackberries, which I hope to address and harvest soon).

Plant strawberries, for "God could have made a better berry, but he didn't." (An old saying.)

One more thing...
While researching strawberries, I came across a recipe for Strawberry Salad, which included strawberries (of course), cucumbers and black pepper. If I manage to have fresh strawberries and cucumbers at the same time, I may try it. Sounds interesting.